Crafting Local – Basket Weaving From Local, Natural Materials

After sticking to my own knitting (literally) as my only craft for the last several decades, I recently picked up the art of basket weaving. Basket weaving appeals to my need for quiet, tactile meditative time. Weaving the materials proves a less exact and more free-form craft experience, and I enjoyed designing traditional Appalachian potato baskets on the fly, throwing in pops of color and even some brightly-colored yarn and twine.

Best of all, I love using all-natural materials. I love that I can pull branches of honeysuckle out of my own front yard, twist them into a frame for a basket, and make something useful for my home. This use of materials right off my farm is something I can’t quite do with knitting – I’m not about to get into sheep farming just to have wool to knit.

What I don’t like about basket weaving is having to use rattan imported all the way from Southeast Asia to make my baskets. I find myself wondering what my Cherokee ancestors used for their baskets. They certainly didn’t send off to another continent for supplies. Surely they used something local, something readily available from the forest around them.

So I’m glad to see more books and resources coming along that show how to use crafting materials right in front of our noses (or many of our noses; I realize not everybody lives on the edge of a forest, as I do). Looking out my window, I want to use the many and abundant materials both Native American and European settlers used for crafting centuries ago. Like these ancestors, I want to make something useful and practical, not some silly tchotchke that takes up space and serves no purpose whatsoever.

I want my crafts to flow out of the forest and meadows on which I draw my sense of peacefulness. In my crafting, I want to take the fruits of the earth and shape them into an expression of my creativity as well as a natural solution to my needs.

Recommended Resources:

Willow: Traditional Craft for Modern Living by Jenny Crisp (coming soon, release date of October 25, 2018).

Basic Basket Making: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started by Linda Franz and Alan Wycheck

Pine Needle Basketry: From Forest Floor to Finished Project by Judy Mallow

The Basket Book: Over 30 Magnificent Baskets to Make and Enjoy by Lyn Siler and Carolyn Kemp

Cynthia Coe is the author of Considering Birds & Lilies: Finding Peace & Harmony With the Everyday World Around Us, two novels, and resources to introduce young people to creation care.

Crafting with Kids, Crafting in Nature

As we look toward a more environmentally friendly and sustainable world, one area where teachers, children’s ministry leaders, and youth leaders can both make a difference and set an example for younger generations is their choice of materials for crafts. Whether in the classroom, Sunday School room, or during summer camp, offering children and youth all-natural materials or objects found in nature for crafting activities can both help address “nature deficit disorder” and walk the walk of acting with good stewardship of earth’s resources.

Several excellent resources for crafting with nature have recently become available.  Thanks to their publishers, I’ve been able to read and review advance copies of these new books, and I’m delighted to report that they are all great resources for teachers and camp leaders.

Nature Art Workshop by Katie Brooks, Sarah Lorraine Edwards, Allison Hetzell, Mikko Sumulong. This gorgeous book has sharp photographs to inspire crafts using flowers, wood, shells, feathers, acorns, and other items found in nature. These projects show that natural elements found in a backyard or nearby park can be used to make pictures, candles, and other art projects.  A lovely book to have around the classroom for children and youth to get ideas for their projects. Available on Kindle September 18, also coming soon in print.

Nature Craft by Fiona Hayes. This nicely illustrated and photographed book offers lots of projects for smaller children.  Using natural elements (sticks, pine cones, feathers) along with purchased materials (felt, paper, googly eyes), this book includes instructions for making lots of forest critters and a couple of masks.  Instructions for making sheep and angels are particularly helpful for Sunday School teachers. This book would be good for teachers who want to use a few natural elements but also want to use more traditional crafting materials. Just published in hardcover.

Into Nature by Autumn Totten and Alexandra Frey. This book is an interactive journal for older children and teens to take into nature, serving as a guide, journal, and inspiration to explore nature in a meaningful way.  I loved that the book is not just for the “outdoorsy”types and meets kids where they are in terms of comfort level in wild or semi-wild settings. (There’s even a couple of exercises involving house plants for those squeamish amongst the bugs and dirt.) This journal includes a comprehensive set of exercises appealing to all the senses (e.g. exploring how it feels to put your bare feet in mud), leading young people to truly immerse themselves in nature. This book would be a wonderful companion for young people attending summer camps.  It emphasizes mindfulness and would be fully compatible with church camp curricula. Just published in paperback.

Foraging with Kids by Adele Nozedar. For a more “foody” twist on crafting in nature, this book is for you. This book leads you through the woods to explore what is edible, with simple recipes included. For children and youth who are not into making crafts, foraging for food in nature provides a bit more daring alternative. For youth leaders who regularly take kids on hikes, this book provides a great resource identifying plants and exploring what you can do with them.  This book is written for a primarily British audience, but much of it is applicable to the forests of North America. Available on Kindle and in hardcover September 18, available for pre-order now.

Cynthia Coe is the author of Wild Faith: A Creation Care Curriculum for Youthand Earth Our Garden Home: Creation Care Lessons for Childrenand served as an Environmental Stewardship Fellow of The Episcopal Church.